The AWS Partner Network and AWS Competencies – What Are They And Why Do They Matter?

June 2, 2020 Michał Brygidyn

If you’re an IT solution provider like us, you’ve probably worked with AWS products and services. After all, the leading Cloud infrastructure provider has over 200 fully featured services from data centers all over the world. That’s an impressive arsenal. Knowing what’s what is crucial if you want to use these tools effectively, and the best way to do that is by being in touch with the tool makers themselves.

The AWS Partner Network

PGS Software - Advanced Consulting PartnerThe first step in developing your AWS knowledge and skills lies in joining the AWS Partner Network (APN). More than 90% of the Fortune 100 companies are part of the network, and we at PGS Software joined their ranks as an AWS Consulting Partner back in 2017.

That was when our journey started. The APN opens up many possibilities for IT service providers – providing technical programs and competencies for Software as a Service (SaaS), devices, digital transformation and many more.

Within a year of joining, we became an Advanced Consulting Partner. And now – after having completed the several APN programs including AWS DevOps and Retail Competencies – we’re gearing up to take the final step to become a Premier Partner.

Let’s look at the benefits that await you once you’re part of the AWS family and what you need to do to get there.

What Is the AWS Competency Program and What Does it Do?

The aforementioned tools are as varied in their use as they’re numerous. From Amazon Virtual Private Cloud to Amazon Aurora, there’s a product there for just about every purpose you can think of.

The AWS Competency Program provides a framework in which these products can be applied effectively, categorized as Industry, Application and Workload programs.

Companies that complete such a program have essentially proven that they know how to use the plethora of AWS tools to boost their own client’s success, help them innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

The in-depth knowledge that is generated and shared through the programs has been a driver for our continued success with AWS solutions, and we whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who wants to provide Cloud-based solutions.

Besides accreditation through audits and checks conducted by AWS, APN members who get competencies get access to a range of other benefits too, such as higher visibility on APN channels, eligibility to partake in APN Marketing activities, Market Development Funds and Discounts and customer opportunities through the APN customer engagement (ACE) program, just to name a few.

To illustrate what you need to do to get there, allow us to tell you our story.

Our APN Journey

PGS Software started to use Cloud solutions in 2011 and has been providing end-customers with more and more Cloud-based solutions in various areas, but – at first – this happened in an uncoordinated manner.

It was the natural step forward to get certified with those companies who provided the infrastructure we so often used in our solutions.

We adopted a full-Cloud philosophy, and we laser-focused on attaining the necessary steps as quickly as possible, based on the assets and skills we have on the team.

After registering in early 2017 as an AWS Consulting Partner, we got to the next level in April the same year after certifying our first developers and solution architects.

A proud 300 of our co-workers had completed the Technical and Business Professional Accreditation, and a number of our staff have also attained higher credentials such as the certificates AWS Certified Developer and AWS Certified Solutions Architect.

We started with long training sessions for everyone who was interested – and many people attended those first ones. But then the number of volunteers started to go down, as our colleagues’ daily work was still a priority and hard to work around.

The solution? An internal app with which people could complete the training and “test their might” in mock exams. That way, people could train whenever they wanted. Plus it was fun to develop that app!

Now we have many certified people – and this certification is something every person takes with them on their career. Through continued mass-accreditation and submitting case studies for successful Cloud projects, we applied for the Advanced Partnership in April 2018.

Then we cast our eye on AWS Competencies. What are they and what do you need to achieve them?

AWS Competencies

Throughout our APN journey, we wanted to show that we really know our stuff in specific solution areas. That’s where the AWS Competencies came into play. They’re designed to identify, validate, and promote APN Partners with demonstrated AWS technical expertise and proven customer success.

Since all our Software delivery processes involved DevOps, we went with the AWS DevOps Competency status in November 2019 and, in May 2020, we got the AWS Retail Competency status.

Here’s what that process generally looked like – exemplified by the AWS Retail Competency.

First, you had to choose the right competency based on the type of projects that you’ve already completed. We had a great portfolio when it came to retail and e-commerce clients, so it made sense to take the step in that direction when AWS announced the retail competency in December 2019.

The whole process lasted about five months. We gathered all the material that shows our expertise and how we approach our work with AWS services. This included demonstrating effective project management processes, agile and secure ways of working and surveying clients’ satisfaction levels.

Creating landing pages for our retail services was next on the menu, followed by gathering and creating content like whitepapers, case studies and blog posts about the relevant service.

The case studies needed to reflect important work we did for a client, helping them achieve their technology goals through AWS services. Careful! Proof of Concepts are not admissible as proof of delivered services.

We needed at least four of them. These case studies had to be structured as follows:

  • Customer description
  • Retail Problem / Challenge
  • Proposed Solution
  • Outcomes
  • Lessons Learned
  • Architecture Diagrams

Two of the four required case studies must be public, and we’d recommend having one extra case study at the ready, should one of the four not meet the requirements fully.

All the evidence needed to be drafted according to specific guidelines and validation check lists. In the end we’ll post more about those in blog posts about the respective competencies, so watch this space for more tips and tricks!

Our AWS Retail Competency timeline:

  • Two months for gathering materials to cover the validation checklist
  • One month for polishing materials and preparing backups
  • One month of working with the AWS technical validation team
  • Four hours for the audit
  • Two weeks for the final evaluation

The final audit took four hours and was an intense check of all the materials and evidence of our skills. Needless to say, we were super proud when we came out of it successfully.

Summary

If you’re doing Cloud projects, definitely consider getting officially certified. It goes a long way to have that official seal of approval, and the benefits you get as an APN Partner are worth it too.

In the process of sharing our story with AWS, we got to know ourselves and our clients better. In turn, this reassures our clients and future prospects that their projects are in good hands.

 

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